The AI Debate

February 1, 2023

Stand together and support real artists. Do NOT use, celebrate, or support AI-Generated images.

This is a hot topic in the art community right now. The following is my opinion that many other artists share with me. We have done the research and I will present some of the facts in support of our side of this debate.

AI “art” is NOT ok:
First, let’s stop calling it art, it is not art, it is AI-generated images. I have had many long-drawn-out conversations about this, in short, AI “art” is theft. The AI programs are “trained” on a database of over 5.8 billion images and text pairings, that were stolen and scrapped from the internet without consent; people’s data, personal medical records, artists’ works, and a host of others. AI steals copyrighted artwork from artists, without our consent, knowledge, credit, or compensation. It then takes those artworks and uses them to generate its images. Don’t be fooled it’s not creating anything original on its own, it literally takes parts of the artworks it has stolen and uses those to create its images. It’s not cool and not ok. This article will cover some of the big debate points.

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YouTube Video: Why Artists Are Fed Up With AI Art.
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The Debate

AI MAKES ART:
I beg to differ. Art is an expression of humanity and our creator and comes from our emotions, soul, spirit, heart, and mind. Art comes from years of experience, practice, and skills learned to create something. It comes from creative problem-solving and communicating an emotion or feeling. None of these are things a machine can do. I can create an image from my imagination, a machine takes data from others’ images it has stolen, seen, and stored.

AI ALLOWS EVERYONE TO BE AN ARTIST:
An AI-generated image is not art and using AI to generate an image does not make you an artist. They are generated images that a machine made for you, you did not create anything. You are typing in prompts to generate an image and having the computer program make something, you are not creating it. Don’t kid yourself or others, using AI does not make you an artist. You are placing an order with keywords. You don’t go to a restaurant to order a pizza, tell them what you want on it, and then call yourself the chef do you?

If you commission me or another artist and tell us what you want us to paint and gave us some general ideas, we are still the ones that made the art, not you. You wouldn’t and couldn’t claim it as your work you would have to say look at the amazing art this person made for me. That does not make you an artist but a client.

People using AI want to call themselves artists because being an artist has been attractive and “cool” for a while now. It’s understandable because there is something special about being an artist and creating something from nothing, doing something not everyone can do, that’s one of the things that makes good art so special because not everyone can do it, and that’s why artists have jobs. Don’t claim to be something you are not. Instead look at what skills, talents, and abilities you have that make you special, instead of trying to steal something that makes someone else special.

People don’t need to be artists to be special or cool. Everyone has their own gifts that God has given them. I personally am terrible at math, taxes, and finances, but there are accountants who are gifted in that and love what they do, so they are special, and I hire them for their special skills. There are amazing chefs who are gifted with that, scientists, mechanics, dancers, writers, musicians, the list goes on. Everyone has been given different gifts passions and abilities. That’s one of the things that makes each of us unique and special in different ways. We all have different skills and passions I think in part to give us a reason to rely on, communicate with, help others, and need people. If everyone could do everything we wouldn’t need each other. We each have and use our gifts to make a living, and we need to support each other who have different gifts, not take them away from them. There are tons of other people who can do other things that not everyone can do and those things are special too.

Having a machine create AI-generated images does not make you an artist, having it write something for you does not make you a writer. And just because something can be done or can be automated does not mean it should be. The scientific community understands this, and that’s why there are regulations on cloning and other regulations on scientific practices.

Think about what skills make YOU special and unique. Focus on and hone that, use that to better the world, offer to others, and make a living. If you want to grow in another skill like art then learn how to do it and grow in it. If you want to be an artist don’t take shortcuts or use the crutch of AI. Pick up a pencil and draw, or pick some other media and actually create and make something yourself. That is what will make you an artist, not telling a machine to generate something for you. If you fail great, at least you tried. And if you can’t do something great, hire someone to do it. That’s how people make a living doing what they love to do. I hire contractors and electricians to work on my house because I don’t know what I’m doing. I hire accountants because I’m bad at that side of the business and don’t have the limited time to spend on it. We have each been gifted with special skills or abilities, support real people who also support you. Now obviously skills aren’t the only thing that makes people special and unique it’s just one thing.

BUT IT IS ORIGINAL ART, IT MADE SOMETHING NEW:
People try to argue that it is “trained” on the images and uses them as reference to “Create Something New” Like artists do. This simply is not the case. AI can’t learn the way people do, it doesn’t create, because it’s a machine and needs information to “create”. That information is all those stolen images, you take that away and AI has no source to generate its images from. It actually uses parts of images from the database to “make new ones”. It is literally sampling from the original images and compiling them into the “new” image. You can even see butchered signatures from artists in some pieces and samples from specific works when you know what to look for. And all the art used to “train” the AI was illegally taken without consent, they skirted the law by developing the database saying it was for research and not for profit then turned around and used it to train AI for profit. These companies are making tons of money from images they stole from us.

The way it generates images to make something “new” it’s the equivalent of a carjacker saying. Hey no, it’s cool. You see I’m just gonna take your car and combine it with parts from a bunch of other cars that I stole… I mean uh took, and add some other things to it too. I’m making something completely new and different with it, so it’s cool. That logic is flawed it’s still theft.

IT’S JUST USING REFERENCES THE WAY HUMAN ARTISTS DO HOW IS IT ANY DIFFERENT:
Computers are NOT using images as reference or Inspiration the way people do. I can look at something and say oh that’s a cool idea, or look how they used these brush strokes, or look at this lighting, or that’s what a … looks like and create something new from my creativity, imagination, skill, and emotion to communicate a feeling. I can make decisions about what to do and not to do and what not to copy because it’s wrong. I can change a pose and make decisions about how I want something to look. The way people use reference and inspiration is completely different than the way a machine does. A machine literally samples the information and data and just rearranges it. It is chopping up the images using different parts and rearranging them because it cannot create from nothing, it has to be programmed with something. And all those images that it gets its data from were stolen. So everything created with it is theft. No matter how much anyone wants to try to justify it.

BUT IT IS BEING RECOGNIZED AS A VIABLE ART FORM:
Some people say this because some galleries and shows were allowing it at first. But as they learn about it and how it really works, a lot of galleries and shows are banning it now because they see it for what it is. The people calling it art are consumers or people who don’t understand what it really is. And sadly some people and corporations just don’t care about ethics and use it anyway to take shortcuts and make a quick buck. But the art community is starting to shut it down. Galleries and shows are finally waking up and starting to ban AI-generated images.

The courts are also starting to recognize AI is not real art, and they are questioning its legality. They are no longer allowing AI-generated images to be copywritten. So every AI-generated image is actually up for grabs by anyone. Why, because a person didn’t create it. It’s a generated combination of millions of images stolen from hard-working people who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their craft and making real art.

YOU POSTED IT ONLINE IT’S YOUR FAULT:
I have heard the arguments online art is free game for anyone, Once it’s online you don’t have copyrights unless specifically stated, It’s online so it’s free and I can use it how I want, and If you’re afraid of theft don’t put your work online. Just because someone posts something online does not give anyone the right to do whatever they want with it. Artists use online platforms as portfolios to show their work to the public. We use it as a way to get jobs or share our voices. We need to post our work online in order to get work not for people to steal it and do as they please with it. Many of us post our work online because we are selling those works and people need to see them to buy them. We also show our work to share our progress and growth as an artist and hopefully inspire others.

Just because the data is available online does not mean everyone should have access to it. Using people’s private medical data in an AI “training” platform like Laion 5B does, is a violation of privacy and a HIPAA violation. People’s personal info, identity, and banking records are all online but it is not ok for anyone to take that data and do as they please with it.

People post research papers and other writings online all the time. But if you take parts from a paper posted online and don’t credit the writer it’s called plagiarism. Using AI-generated images is no different. Just because the laws are muddy in this area right now doesn’t mean it’s ok. There is actually a movement of artists trying to get legislation to delete and reset the AI and force companies to train them off legally acquired images and data. There is also a class action Law suit that has been filed against several AI companies and platforms that allow it.

IT’S THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENS IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY PEOPLE SAMPLE FROM OTHER SONGS ALL THE TIME. HIP-HOP USES/USED SAMPLING:
This argument is only partly accurate. There are two issues I will tackle here. First, this is different from Hip-Hop and other forms of music that “sample” from other songs, it’s just that it’s a sample. The artist/musician will take a sample or small part of a song and add it to their own material. They incorporate it into their song with their own lyrics that they created. They also add other instrumental parts and the like of their own creation. AI does not sample the same way it takes parts of every image it has scene and generates an image based on prompts. It does not and cannot add anything new of its own to it. This would be the equivalent of someone taking a piece from multiple songs, not adding their own lyrics or anything else and just generating a “new song” from all the old parts of other songs. “But don’t DJs do this and other people who make remixes and mashups.” This is still different they credit the original artists and add FEAT to the title or description. Also, this is a person making the choices of what to use a prompter doesn’t really do that they just rely on AI to do the work for them. And most of the time the human artist must get legal approval from the artist they are taking the songs from. This leads me to my second point on this issue.

The Music Industry is constantly taking others to court and suing people for stealing works without permission. There are now laws to protect music artists’ original works. People must pay for licenses and get permission to sample the works now. Yes, there are editorial, parody laws, and “free use” situations. But these are specific situations that the person is taking into account, and I won’t be tackling that can of worms here.

AI and its prompters do not respect any of these ethical or legal concerns. They freely take what they want with no credit, compensation, or permission. And as I said before the prompter is not creating anything, and the AI is generating something from stolen parts.

IT’S NOT HURTING ANYONE:
These are uninformed and asinine statements. It is hurting the artists and the people who had their personal data stolen to “train the AI”. There are many famous popular artists who have had their names used tens of thousands of times to generate these images in their style a style they spent years creating. People are committing fraud and forgeries using these artists’ names. It actually hurts the user too because you are paying to “train” these things further. Everything you create is not truly yours and cannot be copywritten. You are cheating yourself out of actually creating.

ARTISTS AREN’T GOING TO LOSE WORK OR THEIR JOBS:
Artists are in fact already losing their jobs or having them affected, and so are writers, and programmers. There are already reports of artists losing jobs in the middle of a contract. To protect their identity I won’t mention who. There is an artist who was in the middle of illustrating a big project with multiple illustrations. They went on vacation which was in the contract and when they came back they received an email informing them they were being let go. The email basically stated the company decided to make some budget cuts, so they were letting this artist go and they were replacing them with AI to finish the project. This AI was being “trained” on their images and of course all of ours. They used it to finish this project all to save a few bucks. I have heard of other artists and have personally experienced cases where we didn’t get a certain job because someone chose to use AI instead of hiring us. I had some clients that I have worked with that chose to have AI write and generate images for a book, whereas in the past this client would have hired a writer, me, or another artist.

Companies are using AI to generate images for concepts. These are jobs that are being taken from artists as well a huge part of the creation process is the concept phase. Companies argue they are saving money and the client’s money, but they are using art stolen from us to take away our jobs. Many artists make a good or sole portion of their living creating concepts. even if you are bringing an artist in to make the finished final work, an artist should have been paid to create the initial concept. Honestly, the result a real artist will give will be better than AI anyway because we can use creativity, imagination, and problem-solving, and years of expierince to come up with an original idea. Where AI takes existing data and prompts from someone who doesn’t understand what it takes to make good art to generate a concept that is ultimately weaker than what a professional artist would come up with.

So yes jobs are being affected.

IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF NOT GETTING WORK OR LOSING YOUR JOB GET BETTER:
This is one of the dumbest and rudest arguments I have ever heard. Many of us have spent our lives perfecting our craft to become some of the best in the industry. There are many established high-end professionals, who are already not getting some of the jobs they would have. Because the AI has been “trained” on their work and promoters are using their names to generate images that are in that artist’s style and some are very convincing. Shady people and corporations are using AI to generate images based on specific artist styles. It is “trained” on the best in the business the same people who it’s being used to replace. No artist can compete with the cost or turnaround time that AI can generate an image in. The original artists’ work still is and always will be better than the AI images but these AI users and corporations don’t care that it’s not the same quality or that it’s theft. They see it as good enough and it got the job done fast and cheap. I won’t lie some of these images are impressive looking too. But that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough at what we do. If we weren’t good at what we do we wouldn’t have been able to make this our job for so long. The AI is not better than us it was “trained” on us and steals our work. It is just impossible for us to compete with the speed of a machine. Good art takes dozens of hours, and AI-generated images take minutes.

AI NEEDS TO BE TRAINED, HOW CAN AI BE MADE ETHICAL:
AI generators currently steal work from creatives and personal data from people. If they are going to be “trained” it needs to be done legally and ethically. Right now it is not, they have illegally and unethically scraped the Internet to “train” AI generators. If these programs must exist they must be reset and completely reprogrammed on images they obtain legally with, credit, compensation, and permission of the artists. If an artist does not explicitly opt-in and approve of their work being “trained” then the AI should not be allowed to use it. Artists should also then be compensated for every time their name or images are used in a generation. That would be the more ethical way to do this. Because AI literally samples from the images it has been trained on it does not actually make anything on its own.

So here is what I propose. AI companies need to scrap the current unethical AI Models and retrain them ethically with legally acquired images. Give artists an opt-in because it is impossible to opt-out. Then contact that artist and come to an agreed amount of compensation with that artist for each piece of art the AI will be trained with. The artist should also receive royalties for each time their image is used by the dataset to generate an image. The artist should receive greater royalties from the AI company every time their name is used in a prompt. AI prompters should have to pay a compensation fee and/or royalties to the artist if they use the artist’s name to generate an image. Kind of like licensing artwork from stock sites. Finally, if the generated image is primarily or heavily influenced by one artist that artist should be credited as well unless a fair compensation agreement was made with the artist by the company or prompter, where the artist agrees not to be credited. 

My personal belief outside the ethical issues is AI needs to go away and people who use it need to learn how to actually create something for themselves or hire a real person to do it.

IT’S HERE TO STAY THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL DO IT:
This is a sad argument and a defeatist mindset. If people just lay back every time something wasn’t right or there was an injustice in this world how terrible would this world be?  Are you going to do things just because you can even if it’s wrong and hurts people? Are you going to just do whatever you can to make a quick buck even if it is or should be illegal and unethical? Where is your morality and care for your fellow human beings? You have a choice you can choose NOT to use AI, you can choose not to support anyone using AI to generate their content, and support real creators who do the work.

WHAT NOW THEN WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE:
As I said as people we have a choice we can choose to do the right thing. Stand together with real creatives. Take a stand against AI generators and the people who use them. Refuse to use or support this stuff. Help get laws passed that make this Illegal and if that doesn’t work just don’t use, support, or buy any AI-generated content. It may not go away but at least you can support the real creatives on these things based on their work.

Buy art from real artists, photographers, designers, writers, and so on.

What else can you do? Educate yourself and others, spread the word, and encourage others to support a creative you know. like follow and share real creatives work.

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